Digital marketing has always been particularly challenging for franchises due to the unique structuring of the business.
With franchisors and franchisees looking to achieve different marketing goals, both parties often struggle to find common ground in the balance of power and priorities.
However, it’s not impossible to keep both sides happy. Communication and collaboration lies at the heart of a successful franchise marketing campaign. Those who manage to do so will fast establish a competitive edge amongst their industry and thrive in the digital economy.
Here are five digital marketing challenges franchises face and steps to overcome them:
Challenge 1: different goals and fragmented strategies
One of the most common problems franchises face is the lack of an integrated digital marketing strategy. Both franchisors and franchisees have different goals and priorities, and this is often reflected in their marketing activities. There is no central, unified approach, resulting in unaligned strategies, brand inconsistency, mixed messages and inaccurate targeting.
Both parties need to meet in the middle and work towards an integrated approach to align brand marketing objectives. Franchisors should provide franchisees with a central marketing strategy and framework that seeks to achieve goals for both parties. This central marketing strategy could include:
A monthly internal marketing calendar with featured promotions and consumer events.
A suite of brand assets franchisees can use across their communication channels i.e. email direct marketing (eDMs), social media, website.
When you have more than 50 franchisees, email may not be the best channel to distribute brand assets, marketing plans and brand guidelines. An online portal where these items can be hosted can ensure franchisees have access to marketing materials whenever they need it. Allow room for flexibility so that individual franchisees have the opportunity to tailor messages to the local market without risk of brand inconsistency.
Challenge 2: pay per click (PPC) budget cannibalism
Search engine marketing (also known as SEM or PPC) is a form of internet marketing whereby advertisers bid on certain keywords that are relevant to their business offering, paying a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. For example, an Italian restaurant in Sydney may bid on search terms like ‘Italian restaurants Sydney’ or ‘Italian food Sydney’. PPC is a cost efficient channel to increase the visibility of your franchise, provided the campaigns are well-designed and optimised accordingly. However, when there is no overarching strategy, franchisees can risk competing against each other, bidding for the same keywords. This is known as unwanted cannibalism.
Franchisors should establish a clearly defined PPC plan that’s passed on to all franchisees, so that paid search campaigns are set up with the same logic and strategy in mind. This includes identifying goals, keywords to bid on and keywords to exclude. Each franchisee should fine tune their geo-targeting option so that they avoid targeting the same area as other franchisees. Whilst Google is capable of segmenting locations by suburbs in Australia, this doesn’t always guarantee that neighbouring franchise locations won’t overlap into each other’s ‘territories’.
When two franchisee locations are too close in proximity, they should consider consolidating PPC efforts by sharing campaigns. For those that outsource PPC work to different digital agencies across individual franchisees, it’s important that these agencies come together to align strategies and tactics.
Challenge 3: lack of unique content
Most franchise businesses have a location finder integrated into its website so that users can find the closest stores near them. However, many franchises often neglect the importance of creating unique, local content on these business pages. If you’re offering only the most basic directory data for each location, with little done to distinguish one franchisee from another, or simply duplicating the copy for each franchisee, it’s time to reconsider your approach. Falling into this pitfall can result in unwanted search engine optimisation (SEO) effects whereby search results are not indexable by search engines and search rankings for certain keywords may also suffer accordingly.
Each individual franchise location should create its own indexable webpage with essential information like opening hours, address, contact details and a Google Map of the business, along with unique local content. Depending on the business and industry, this may be a list of services/products available, special deals and offers or any other information that sets this franchisee location apart from others. In order to achieve brand consistency, franchisors should consider distributing different content templates that can help guide franchisees to create customised location-based content.
Challenge 4: segmenting audiences and email list management
One of the biggest challenges for franchises is segmenting audiences and sending customised emails that are targeting the right customers at the right time. Those who rely on generic lists without implementing a local email strategy risk turning away customers with broad or irrelevant promotional messages and offers. On the other hand, franchises without a centralised email marketing system risk losing control of maintaining a consistent brand image as different franchisees start sending out varying emails.
Franchises should consider centralising the data capture of email lists across different customer touch points, with each facilitating a segmentation of audiences based on location. This approach allows individual franchisees to deliver personalised, geo-targeted campaigns while protecting brand equity of the franchise overall. Centralising email marketing also ensures better customer experience as there is a higher level of consistency across the board.
Challenge 5: variations in digital competency
Franchise businesses count inconsistency across digital marketing channels as a major issue. However, this usually stems from a lack of digital understanding and competency amongst individual franchisees. For example, some franchisees are early digital adopters and experienced in running online marketing campaigns, whilst others are unaware of the role social media, SEO and PPC can play to boost business growth and sales.
In the fast-changing digital landscape, franchisors should invest in ongoing education and support for everyone in the franchise network so that franchisees are kept abreast of the latest trends and are in a good position to adapt proactively. It’s important to train individual franchisees on the purpose of different digital channels, how they work and the marketing potential behind each medium, as well as success metrics. When individual franchisees have a solid knowledge base of digital marketing, they can work towards executing strategies that are aligned with broader business objectives of the entire franchise.